A new type of purpose-built technology is necessary to manage patient relationships.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are commonplace in nearly every industry, though their use in healthcare is complicated. Healthcare is incredibly complex and unique in many ways, and many generic CRM or CRM-like solutions address only one or two elements of the patient journey, such as appointment scheduling and reminders, without factoring in personal needs and preferences, health histories, or provider staffing.
Additionally, HIPAA and state laws control how protected personal information can be collected and used, and many health systems and private practices continue to rely on disconnected technology solutions that lack integrations and interoperability, despite the emergence of standards like HL7 and FHIR APIs.
In other industries, CRM systems work best when aggregating records across channels to create a more holistic view of customers and their wants and needs. As it happens, in survey after survey, healthcare consumers say they want more personalization in their experience. Furthermore, a 2022 report from CVS Health shows the vast majority of providers agree that personalization and specific interventions, such as text message reminders or phone follow-ups, assist patients in following their prescribed care plan. Still, existing approaches to meet these demands often fall short. Given these challenges and the rise of the empowered healthcare consumer, a new type of purpose-built CRM is needed for healthcare organizations.
Creating a Holistic View of Consumers
In healthcare, to design effective outreach campaigns, organizations must consider not only consumers’ preferred communication methods, previous conversations, and responses across channels but also factors like health history, risk level, and insurance status.
Unfortunately, information about consumers’ health journeys tends to be siloed, with limited visibility across departments and functions. Electronic health records often contain one or more pieces of the puzzle. Core systems for scheduling, patient communications, and billing hide other pieces. Of course, the more systems there are to manage, the harder it is to gain a holistic view of consumer preferences and statuses. This is particularly true when managing campaigns that involve multiple channels (e.g., SMS, email, patient portals, phone, etc.).
Only by integrating and consolidating these systems together can organizations see the broader story their various data points are telling them, such as which groups are most likely to sign up for a flu shot based on past visits and responses and which may need some additional encouragement to schedule an appointment. By understanding the unique needs and preferences of each consumer, health systems can create targeted campaigns that are more likely to be successful and build stronger, more loyal relationships with their patients.
Designing Intelligent, Personalized Engagement
There are a few qualities that distinguish patient engagement runs through a purpose-built system for healthcare vs. off-the-shelf solutions or generic CRM systems, and they are critical for healthcare providers to manage their interactions with patients and streamline their operations. These include:
- Historical data of past consumer interactions across channels
- Awareness of appointment availability and provider capacity
- Integration with the EHR to enable second and third-level attribution metrics for campaign measurement
Consider that many health systems are historically understaffed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, large health systems employ thousands of physicians, each with their own specialty, services, hours, and relationship to the organization. Marketing and strategy teams are not responsible for setting physician schedules, and without up-to-date data on the capacity of the health system’s personnel, they can easily fall into the trap of running a campaign to create demand for services that are simply not available or currently feasible. Indeed, the best patient engagement campaign in the world won’t be very effective if your health system doesn’t have the resources to manage responses or the capacity to schedule appointments.
On the flip slide, forward-looking health systems may use capacity data to design campaigns in anticipation of forecasted revenue gaps to match healthcare supply with patient demand. Many hospitals budget based on physician productivity measures, driven by claims data that can lag 60 to 90 days at times. By combining historical data with predictive analytics, health systems could forecast that one of its clinics is in danger of missing its revenue goals, enabling them to proactively contact patients via their preferred channel (i.e., text or email) to drive demand for that office.
Along these lines, health systems exploring technologies to better manage patient outreach should consider how they integrate with EHRs for attribution purposes. For example, let’s say a health system runs a campaign encouraging high-risk heart disease patients to conduct a free health risk assessment. Healthcare consumers that sign up for a cardiology appointment as a direct result might be said to be first-level attribution to the campaign (i.e., the campaign should take credit for every appointment booked). If that patient continues to see a physician, perhaps getting a lab workup or other tests, those services could be categorized as second-level attribution – namely, the campaign should take some credit for these secondary services performed. Finally, if the patient proceeds with a surgical procedure a few months down the road, the health system can go back and view the steps leading up to it via third-level attribution. The data gathered during campaigns can also help train machine-learning models to streamline and improve automated recommendations for future campaigns.
In conclusion, while generic CRM systems may seem like a cost-effective solution for healthcare providers, they may not have the necessary features and integrations to effectively support the unique needs of the healthcare industry. Indeed, organizations that continue to approach healthcare consumerism in a siloed way will never truly understand the many individual journeys that make up the patient experience. Health systems looking to streamline operations and improve the patient experience should instead look to systems that can pull data across communication channels and health histories to create a more holistic view of consumers and, in turn, meet their preferences for more personalized engagement.
About Abhi Sharma
Abhi Sharma is the chief product officer for Loyal, overseeing the company’s product development, engineering, design, and AI teams. Abhi has been with Loyal since 2015 and has over a decade of experience orchestrating product success for innovative companies like Blockchain, NBCUniversal, and BrightWhistle. He holds a BS in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.